Grace Gems: True Consecration

J.R. Miller, “The Shining Light” 1911

“It is the Lord’s will. Let Him do what He thinks best.” 1 Samuel 3:18

The heart of consecration is not devotion to this or that kind of service for Christ- but devotion to the Divine will, whatever God may ordain. It may not be any form of activity–sometimes it is quiet waiting. Consecration is not bringing a great many souls to Christ, attending a great many religious meetings, or teaching or preaching.

Some weary one, shut away in the darkness, in the chamber of pain, may be illustrating true consecration far more beautifully than those whose hands are fullest of Christian activities in the bustling world.

Consecration is devotion to the will of God. It is readiness to do, not what we want to do in His service–but what He gives us to do.

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away! Blessed be the name of the LORD!” Job 1:21

“Father, if You are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from Me. Nevertheless, I want Your will to be done, not Mine!” Luke 22:42

“Let the Lord’s will be done!” Acts 21:14

Your way, not mine, O Lord,
However dark it be,
Lead me by Your own hand,
Choose out the path for me.

I dare not choose my lot,
I would not, if I might;
Choose for me, my God;
So shall I walk aright!
Horatius Bonar
This is copied straight from a recent Grace Gem. In case you are unaware, Grace Gems are emailed daily and for free from gracegems.org. They are short quotes from past Godly men, mainly puritans, and I highly commend them to your attention and recommend you sign up.

If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I love Thee because Thou has first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree.
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10

The Importance of the Church

I just recently began reading Mark Dever’s book: The Church – The gospel made visible. The following is based on an excerpt from the preface*

The church should be regarded as important because to Christians because of its importance to Christ

  • Christ founded the church – Matthew 16:18
  • Christ purchased it with His blood – Acts 20:28
  • Christ intimately identifies himself with it – Acts 9:4
  • The church is the body of Christ – 1 Corinthians 12:12,27;  Ephesians 1:22-23 et al
  • The church is the dwelling place of His Spirit – 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 Ephesians 2:18, 22, 4:4
  • The church is the chief instrument of glorifying God in the world (Ezekiel 36:22-38; Ephesians 3:10
  • The church is God’s instrument for bringing both the gospel to the nations and a great host of redeemed humanity to himself – Luke 24:46-48, Revelation 5:9

 

I trust that I bring you a few more tidbits from this book soon

 

*The Church, The gospel made visible; Dever, Mark (2012); B&H Publishing house; Page x-xi

Trusting God Through The Numbers

The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “The people of Israel shall camp each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ houses. They shall camp facing the tent of meeting on every side. Those to camp on the east side toward the sunrise shall be of the standard of the camp of Judah by their companies, the chief of the people of Judah being Nahshon the son of Amminadab, his company as listed being 74,600. Those to camp next to him shall be the tribe of Issachar, the chief of the people of Issachar being Nethanel the son of Zuar, his company as listed being 54,400. Then the tribe of Zebulun, the chief of the people of Zebulun being Eliab the son of Helon, his company as listed being 57,400. All those listed of the camp of Judah, by their companies, were 186,400. They shall set out first on the march. “On the south side shall be the standard of the camp of Reuben by their companies, the chief of the people of Reuben being Elizur the son of Shedeur, his company as listed being 46,500. Numbers 2:1-11

bible-and-coffeeIf like me you have read the bible through at least once, you would have read through the numbers lists and genealogies, such as the verses quoted above. And like me, you probably found it very difficult reading. Keeping concentration is hard and we struggle to put into perspective why these texts are a part of the bible. So why did God include in His word, large parts of Genesis, Chronicles, Numbers and even a chapter in Luke and Matthew each such lists? And what can we learn from them? In literature, I am unaware of any other work that labours so hard with lists, genealogies and numbers, except Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, and then only in the appendixes. So why does the bible have them? And does it benefit us to read them through, and as often as we read the rest of the bible? I came up with four reasons why they are important.

  1. The genealogies and number lists demonstrate that the bible is a historical document, comprising of multiple genres of writing and written down by many different people over many many years rather than a complete fabrication out of the heads a person or group. As you know, the genres include writings, historical accounts, poetry, proverbs, law, genealogies, court records, letters, public proclamations written down and so on. Even a cursory glance through the bible will reveal this is so, and in examining some texts will Illustrate what I mean.
    Some verses are written from the first person:

    In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after that which appeared to me at the first. And I saw in the vision; and when I saw, I was in Susa the citadel, which is in the province of Elam. And I saw in the vision, and I was at the Ulai canal. Daniel 8: 1-2

    or from the third person such as:

    Then Joshua rose early in the morning and they set out from Shittim. And they came to the Jordan, he and all the people of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over. At the end of three days the officers went through the camp and commanded the people, “As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it. Joshua 3:1-3

    And then there is songs:

    Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD! Psalm 150

    Or proverbs:

    Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored. A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools. Proverbs 13:18-19 

    And finally (by way of example) prophecy:

    The word of the LORD came to me:
    “What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? As I live, declares the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Ezekiel 18:1-3


    Besides all this, we see order, an account of God’s interaction with the world, from the day He created it, till the day He will destroy and remake it. And His salvation plan, starting with the Woman’s seed (Genesis 3:15) to the calling of Abraham, and his descendants, ultimately climaxing in Christ, and the events soon thereafter. No work of fiction would be able to encompass so much differing content and still be even remotely coherent.

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  2. This is probably the most important reason why genealogies and numbers are important. They tell us, Christians today in the 21st century that we are connected to an actual, unbroken and continuous line of saint, men of old who were just as much in awe and in love with our God as we were. We are connected to an actual history, and its our history. The events of the early church are the events of our church’s past. indeed, while we are not Israel, the various events of the Old Testament is part of the history of a believer. If nothing else, this should give us tremendous trust in God’s faithfulness. If He can keep the world spinning, and keep His people for so many centuries, He will certainly keep us, as He has promised. (Hebrews 13:5).
    Have you ever read your family tree? My family has several volumes covering some of the branches of my family history. I remember pouring over these books, reading about the first member of my family in South Africa (One of the 1820 Settlers in the Eastern Cape if you’re interested). Thomas Hartley and his sons, and their exploits, and how they settled, and what they did and so on. I’m sure you know what I mean. In the same way, we read of (for example) Steven, the first Martyr, and realize that he is our Ancestor in the faith, a man who, like I am, was called and converted to Jesus Christ, who boldly proclaimed Him and, as I may be, was called to lay his life down for his Lord.
  3. The numbers and genealogies is one of the nails in the coffin of the debate “Is the bible the word of God?” Because of the number of authors, as well as the different genres and the number of years over which the full text of the bible was written and compiled, the idea that it would be cohesive, let alone coherent is very difficult to imagine. It is totally understandable that unbelievers can look at the bible from a far perspective and reject it out of hand for this reason. Except when you read and study it you find it to be both coherent and cohesive, in both small portions and as a whole. God wrote it, The incredibly complex detail is impossible otherwise. And it all hangs together. Part of this coherence is the genealogies, it tells us people are involved, and that they were involved in events planned and played out by our Lord. At such and such a time, such and such happened.
  4. Finally, it tells us that the bible is not fiction. I have, in reality been saying this is the previous 3 points, but allow me to summarize in this way, because by noting it directly we can draw some particular applications. If the bible isn’t fiction, then we can, in the first place, take it seriously, knowing that its author intended it to be understood as truth. It certainly claims to be true and I have found many many reasons to believe that it is true. And if true, because of its claims, it most certainly must have and effect on our lives, it cannot help but do that.

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So in summary, God wrote the bible, and He is the author of all of it. This includes long lists of names, numbers and details of people. Boring as this may be, in the literary sense it nevertheless can teach us a number of things. It tells us about an actual history that actually happened. And we are connected to that story, we are part of the story which ultimately God is playing out. God’s word is true, trustworthy and needed for knowing God. Get hold of one and read it regularly, and remember as you read through it, especially through Chronicles or Numbers, this is from God.

Fighting Sin In The Moment

I had the pleasure of spending two days listening to Mark Dever and Kevin DeYoung expound and proclaim the gospel over and over as part of the Durban leg of the Rezolution 2013 conference. However the final session was preached by Kevin DeYoung and using Hebrews 12:14 he preached on holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. He painted a convicting picture of just how exactly holiness is an essential aspect of being a Christian. You cannot be a Christian and not grow in holiness. Then he gave a personal illustration of how, at the moment of temptation, to remain holy and pure, and its been buzzing around my head ever since.

Fighting-Sin-In-The-Moment

This is the principle: When faced with temptation, quote to yourself Matthew 5:8 – Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.  Now lest you think that this is simply a mantra which cures everything, let me explain whats behind this. As a Christian, I want to see God. He is my Lord, my saviour, the one who removed my sins and my adoptive Father. I suspect that upon entering heaven and seeing Him, I will fall on my face and it will take quite a few years before I get up from that. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.

KevinDeYoungDeYoung explained that there are two aspects of holiness. Firstly the holiness which come from Christ, purchased by Him on the cross of Calvary. But secondly, there is holiness which we develop as God sanctifies us. This holiness is not saving, we can’t in any way use it as part of a ticket to heaven, but it is the natural fruit of an increasingly sanctified life. This is the holiness primarily referred to in Hebrews 12:14, the holiness without which nobody will see the Lord.

Now let me emphasis something. No amount of personal holiness, either worked for knowingly or not, can ever add even the smallest part to your salvation, that was solely and completely earned by the atoning death of Jesus Christ on the cross. However, every single Christian, without exception, will always, always, over time, become progressively more holy and righteous. The improvements may be small enough that you don’t notice them in the short term, but over the medium term, your friends and family will notice them. A Christian dies, more holy than when they were saved. This process is called sanctification. To put it another way, this is what James is referring to in James 2, where he describes faith without works as being dead. Again, not that works saves the person, but it ALWAYS accompanies salvation.

So what of saying Matthew 5:8 to yourself. Let me explain it using DeYoung’s analogy. Sin offers pleasure. Hebrews 11:24-25 describe how Moses chose rather to suffer as a Hebrew rather than “enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.” Sin is pleasurable, for a short time; This is why people look at pornography. This is why a person will commit adultery or commit an act of violence. Often it is the reason why people steal. Very often, people addicted to alcohol or drugs, is because the substance somehow dulls the pain, makes them feel better or gives them a high of some kind. People lie because, at the time, it is more comfortable to tell a falsehood than the uncomfortable truth. The problem is, sin requires wages, and those wages are always death. Romans 6:23

But because sin is pleasurable, we are tempted to do it. We have to replace that desire for a fleeting pleasure, with a greater one. I want to see God. That is a great desire. So when tempted, I remind myself of a particular beatitude, which says. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. I remind myself with these words that what I want is to see God rather than this temporary, death bringing sin.

Punching-Out-SinJust one other thing, and that just to say, this in not a quid pro quo system, its not a mantra that just makes you holy if you say it enough times. The moment it becomes some kind of mantra, it looses its gospel potency. But its is a most excellent bullet to put in the gun used for fighting sin in the moment. It doesn’t remove the temptation, but it does serve as an effective tool for keeping clear of it, especially those sins of a visual nature. Its a way of renewing your mind day by day.

Till He returns

The Joburg version of the Rezolution comference is happening this week, if you are in the area it is well worth going to listen to Kevin DeYound, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan & CJ Mahaney preach at this conference. More information here

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